Sunday, April 28, 2013
I'll also highlight each of the players on the roster, and where they will be playing hockey in 2013-14.
As always, I would appreciate any comments left by readers out there. What were some of the high points for you as a fan?
This is a very long article, so click the "Read more" link below to check it out.
Coming into this season, I think a lot of folks thought the Stars might struggle a little bit in terms of goal scoring with superstar Kevin Roy gone to Northeastern. Goaltending, it seemed, would be Lincoln's strength. The Stars returned Jackson Teichroeb, and used their top pick in the 2012 USHL Entry Draft to select highly touted netminder Michael Bitzer of Moorhead, MN.
Most seasons, because they tend to start practice a little later in September compared to other USHL teams, the Stars will start the regular season a bit slow. That definitely didn't happen this past fall. The Stars went 10-0-0 in their first ten games of the 2012-13 season, which broke a franchise record for most wins to start the season. Will Suter scored 13 points (6g, 7a) in that ten-game winning streak to lead the Stars on offense. Eric Scheid, who returned to the Stars after leaving the University of Alaska-Anchorage after his freshman season, was right behind Suter with 12 points (6g, 6a) during the ten-game winning streak.
Things were looking very good for the Stars in October. They were undefeated, and on top of the western conference standings. However, that would change as the regular season progressed. Looking back, the Stars started, and finished the regular season with very similar records. Lincoln went 11-2-0 in their first thirteen games of the season. In the last thirteen games, the Stars had a record of 10-3-0. Out of the game strong, and they certainly finished strong.
However, the period between those two strong points was very up and down. Lincoln had a record of 18-17-3 after they started 11-2-0, and before the finished the season with a 10-3-0 record. Eventually, they slipped out of first place and had to battle hard in the last quarter of the regular season to make the playoffs. Inconsistent play plagued the Stars during the middle point of the season. At times, they could play with and beat the top teams in the USHL. Other nights, they looked plain bad.
In my opinion, the team was very well balanced. Offense, defense, goaltending....the Stars had very good pieces and good depth. What wasn't well balanced was the special teams. For the majority of the season, Lincoln had one of the worst PP percentages and PK percentages in the USHL. I think if Lincoln's special teams was better, they could have finished the season in second, or maybe even first place in the west. What's a little concerning is that the special teams never improved during the course of the season. I'm not sure if that's a coaching problem, or a personnel problem.
When they needed to play their best hockey of the season to make a playoff push, the Stars did it. Down the stretch, they were one of the hottest teams in the USHL. They came up a bit short in the playoffs, but it certainly wasn't for lack of trying. Lincoln ran into a hot team (Sioux Falls), and a hot goaltender (Charlie Lindgren).
I'm going to take some time now to highlight the players who finished the season in Lincoln. They are listed in no particular order, other than alphabetically.
Michael Bitzer: Bitz almost single-handedly carried the Stars to a first-round playoffs upset over the Sioux Falls Stampede. Unbelievable glove hand. He will attend Bemidji State University this fall.
Jackson Teichroeb: Came back to Lincoln last fall in great shape. Teichs started and finished the regular season very strong. He will attend Niagara University this fall.
Zach Frye: In my opinion, one of the most improved players on the Stars this past season. Very solid in his own end. Punishing body checker. He should be back in Lincoln next season, and should wear a letter on his jersey.
Paul LaDue: The best overall defenseman to ever wear a Lincoln Stars uniform, imo. There's no question in my mind Paul will be playing in the NHL someday. He made it all look easy. I think some fans took for granted how good of a player Paul really was. He will attend the University of North Dakota this fall.
Mike McKee: When he stayed out of the penalty box and played smart hockey, Mike was a dominating force for the Stars. Unfortunately, he was suspended for a lot of games and missed a good portion of the season. Mike will attend Western Michigan University this fall.
Zack Pittman: I know a lot of folks would think of Michael Bitzer as the top rookie on the Stars this past season, but my vote would go to Pittman. He was one of the youngest players on the team, playing the most difficult position as a first-year player. He has a very bright future, and should return to Lincoln next season.
Eric Schurhamer: Acquired in February from the Waterloo Blackhawks. Quality puck-handler, and a good PP QB. There's a chance he could return to Lincoln, but everything I've heard indicates he will attend the University of Maine this fall.
Daniel Willett: Youngest player on the roster this past season. Played 42 of 64 games. Small in stature, but a very good skater and passer. Should develop into a very good PP QB. Decomitted from Northeastern this past season. He should return to Lincoln next season.
Justin Woods: Solid, physical defenseman who put up some good numbers for the Stars. Workhorse. Woods can play both the PP and the PK very well. He will attend the University of Alaska-Fairbanks this fall.
Zach Aston-Reese: Along with Frye, you could argue that ZAR was the most improved player on Lincoln's roster. Definitely was one of Lincoln's best forwards the last two months of the season, including the playoffs. Big, rangy, physical center. Committed to Northeastern, but should return to Lincoln next season. If he does return, like Frye, he should wear a letter.
Riley Bourbonnais: Acquired in February from the Sioux City Musketeers for two entry draft picks and two affiliate players. Teamed up with Phil Marinaccio to be a good 1-2 offensive punch for the Stars. Riley will attend RPI this fall.
Garrett Brossart: Only played 30 games for the Stars. Healthy scratch for most games out of the lineup, but he has a nose for the puck. Good hands and above average speed. Should return to Lincoln next season and provide good depth at forward.
Jimmy DeVito: Provided grit and leadership for the Stars this past season. USHL three-year veteran. Acquired last summer from the Chicago Steel. Some fans nicknamed him the "Honey Badger." Smaller size, but would not back down from anyone. He will attend RPI this fall.
Brad Hawkinson: Points don't show how valuable Hawk was to the Stars this past season, and in 2011-12. Had a knack for scoring big goals in big games. Coaches had utmost faith in his abilities to play him at defense numerous times this past season. He was Lincoln's swiss army knife. He will attend Denver University this fall.
Max Humitz: Only played 18 games for the Stars this past season. Spent most of the last half of the regular season on Lincoln's affiliate roster, yet stayed in Lincoln to practice with the team and attend high school. He was Lincoln's top scorer in the preseason. Like Brossart, Max should return to Lincoln next season to play a more expanded role.
Luke Johnson: Got a lot of attention as Steve Johnson's son, and Chad Johnson's nephew. Good size, and a great shot. Very quick release. Not afraid to get his nose dirty in the corners. Has all the tools to succeed at the college, and NHL level. He will attend the University of North Dakota this fall.
Vinni Lettieri: Vinni gets my vote as top forward, and possibly MVP of the Stars this past season. Started off a little slow, but exploded in the last half of the regular season. Smaller size, but fearless with or without the puck. Has a knack of finding the open areas on the ice. Good chance Vinni will return to Lincoln next season, but the University of Minnesota may decide to bring him up early this fall.
Phil Marinaccio: Acquired by the Stars in a trade with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders in January. This was one of those trades you wished Lincoln would have made earlier in the season. Fantastic puck handler, and a great hands around the net. As stated above, teamed up with Riley Bourbonnais to put up some big goals during Lincoln's playoff push. Phil will attend Bemidji State University with Michael Bitzer this fall.
Eric Scheid: Return to Lincoln after one season in college playing for the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Was Lincoln's most dependable, point-scoring forward all season long. You could certainly argue that Eric was Lincoln's MVP this season. Terrific speed with or without the puck. He was a big part of Lincoln's 10 game winning streak to start the season. Eric will attend Penn State University this fall.
Tommy Schutt: Underrated all-around forward for the Stars the past two seasons. Not flashy, but doesn't have to be. Like Hawk, Tommy's contributions were often not seen by the common fan. Could play both the PP and the PK. Schutt will attend Quinnipiac University this fall.
Dominik Shine: The heart and soul of the Lincoln Stars the past four seasons. One of my favorite all-time players. Never took a shift, or a game off. Unfortunately, due to his playing style, he would occasionally find himself injured. But he always returned, and never seemed to miss a step after an injury. Underrated rocket of a shot. Great leader. He will really be missed next season. Dom will attend Northern Michigan University this fall.
Will Suter: Like Shine, Will was one of my favorite players the past couple of seasons. I remember watching him at Lincoln's tryout camp a few years ago in Minneapolis. He's a great example what hard work can get you in life. Busted his rear end to make the Stars two years ago, and ended up being an alternate captain this past season. Huge heart. Tireless on the ice. Outstanding on the PK. He will attend Bentley University this fall.
Jake Wood: I nicknamed Jake the "Wrecking Ball" at the beginning of the season. Small size, but he plays like he's 6'4", 220 pounds. Ruthless on the forecheck. Quick release, and a good shot. One of those players that as the opposition, you had to keep your head up all the time. Jake will attend RPI this fall.
This article is already way too long, so if you made it this far, thank you. I hope I didn't bore you too much.
The end of the season is always hard to handle, but I'm already looking forward to next season. As noted above, the Stars will have to reload in a big way in order to come back next season with a top team. Lincoln loses a lot of scoring, so the coaches will need to draft very well to replace those points. The Stars will also have to replace two goaltenders.
The USHL Futures and Entry drafts are coming up in early May, and I'll be posting a number of articles about that in the coming weeks. I'll also look at some of the players the Stars have drafted in the past couple of seasons, and how many of them could play in a Stars uniform in 2013-14.
Lincoln's tryout camp will be held from June 6th-9th at Ridder Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and I will be there to cover it for the blog. I'm really, really looking forward to that event. It's basically my hockey vacation every June. Can't wait to get up there and watch the futures of the Lincoln Stars.
Thanks again to all of you who make this blog a frequent stop on your internet rounds. Best part of running this blog the past 4+ years has been the opportunity to meet and befriend so many awesome people. From fellow Stars fans, to player parents, it's has been an honor keeping this blog active for all of your Stars needs. I've said it a million times, but without you, I'd still be talking to myself. So thank you for your patronage.
Until next season, Stars Nation!
Posted by Yeti at 6:27 PM